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Neil Young unveils high-definition music player, store

March 10, 2014 - 11:50am
Singer-songwriter Neil Young announced plans Monday to launch a high-definition portable music player and download service, saying it will improve the experience of listening to digital music on the go.

"Archival Disc" standard for professional-use next-generation optical discs

March 10, 2014 - 7:20am
Sony and Panasonic today announced that they have formulated "Archival Disc", a new standard for professional-use, next-generation optical discs, with the objective of expanding the market for long-term digital data storage*.

A new sensor uses sound to diagnose faults in industrial machinery

March 10, 2014 - 6:40am
Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) have developed wireless sensors able to detect minute fissures in industrial machinery by the ultrasonic sounds they emit, with which the fault can be located early before a serious breakdown occurs. The team is studying potential applications in biomedicine to prevent bone fractures.

Can the blind 'hear' colors, shapes? Yes, show researchers

March 9, 2014 - 1:04pm
What if you could “hear” colors? Or shapes? These features are normally perceived visually, but using sensory substitution devices (SSDs) they can now be conveyed to the brain noninvasively through other senses. SSDs are non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information to the blind via their existing senses. For example, using a visual-to-auditory SSD in a clinical or everyday setting, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smart phone) and stereo headphones. The images are converted into "soundscapes," using a predictable algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera.

New report warns of “cascading system failure” caused by climate change

March 8, 2014 - 7:06am

From roads and bridges to power plants and gas pipelines, American infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a pair of government reports released Thursday.

The reports are technical documents supporting the National Climate Assessment, a major review compiled by 13 government agencies that the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release in April. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory put together the reports, which warn that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause “cascading system failures” unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. Island Press has published the full-length version of the reports, which focus on energy and infrastructure more broadly.

Thomas Wilbanks, a research fellow at Oak Ridge and the lead author and editor of the reports, said this is the first attempt to look at the climate implications across all sectors and regions. Rather than isolating specific types of infrastructure, Wilbanks said, the report looks at how “one impact can have impacts on the others.”

Previous extreme weather events, which scientists warn may be exacerbated by climate change, offer insight to the types of failures they’re talking about. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, the loss of electricity in the region meant that several major oil pipelines could not ship oil and gas for several days, and some refineries could not operate. Gas prices rose around the country.

Other scenarios include a major storm wiping out communications lines, a blackout that cuts power to sewage treatment or wastewater systems, and a weather event that damages a bridge or major highway. In the latter case, the damage would not only cost money to repair, but could cause traffic backups or delays in the shipment of goods, which could in turn have wider economic implications. As the report describes it:

A central theme of the report is that vulnerabilities and impacts are issues beyond physical infrastructures themselves. The concern is with the value of services provided by infrastructures, where the true consequences of impacts and disruptions involve not only the costs associated with the cleanup, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, economic activities are suspended, and/or social well-being is threatened.

While many reports on climate change focus on the long-term impacts, looking ahead 50 or 100 years, the effects described in Thursday’s reports are the kind that cities, states, and the federal government can expect to see in the next few decades, Wilbanks said.

“There’s this crunch between vulnerability of infrastructure because it’s aging or stressed because they are so heavily used, and they’re being exposed to new threats like more frequent, extreme weather events,” says Wilbanks. All this comes at a time, Wilbanks said, where governments at every level are facing “great difficulty in coming up with public sector financing to replace or revitalize them.”

The energy report also exposes vulnerabilities in the system. It points to recent cases where heat waves caused massive spikes in energy use for cooling buildings, putting strain on the power grid. It also highlights instances where power plants were at risk of flooding, or had to shut down or scale back operations due to high temperatures and droughts.

“One quarter of existing power generation facilities are in counties associated with some type of water sustainability concern,” said David Schmalzer, coauthor of the energy-focused report. “Warmer air and water are expected to reduce the efficiency of thermal power, while hydropower and biofuels will also face increased uncertainty. Even electricity sources not dependent on water supplies, such as wind and solar power, also face increased variability, as a changing climate will potentially impact the variability of their resources.”

“Fixing infrastructure resilience problems [requires] a partnership between different levels of government, industry, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups. No one party is the best to do it all,” said Wilbanks. “What we really need is some innovative thinking about financing.”

This story was produced by The Huffington Post as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

The sounds of the universe

March 7, 2014 - 6:05pm
What are the strangest sounds in the universe?

Samsung introduces free streaming radio service

March 7, 2014 - 12:23pm
Samsung on Friday unveiled a new free music service for its phones that it touts as a significant improvement from the apps already on the market.

Addictive game lets you play subway god, weep at your inefficient creation

March 7, 2014 - 7:03am

Have you ever scoffed at a subway delay? Rolled your eyes at yet another crowded Q train? Looked at a veiny metro map and said, “Give me five minutes and a Sharpie and I’ll show you a more efficient system?”

Well, my friend, it’s time to put your fingers where your mouth is (unless, oh god, you’ve recently been holding onto a train pole). The free, in-browser game Mini Metro lets you design your own subway system. Players simply drag and extend lines between an ever-increasing number of stations while tiny symbols wait to catch a ride. A polished version of the game will eventually be released on tablets, PCs, and Macs, but for now, the online version is fun enough.

It’s a potent timewaster, too: A cursory look by this reporter turned into a full hour of frantic clicking and cursing at traveling triangles who just want to get home to see their kids. OK, full confession: I’m playing right now.

So go on, play metro god. Throw tracks down. Dig underwater tunnels with a flick of your hand. Add cars to crowded lines. Become a subway savior or stand back and look at the horror you’ve created, you malevolent deity, you.

After you spend long, nail-biting moments watching tiny circles and triangles shake in indignation at delayed trains, you’ll never look at your commute the same way again. Here’s a trailer for the game:

Sorry to have forsaken you, lil’ furious commuting squares. I’ll do better next time.

Filed under: Article, Cities, Living

Prehistoric rock art is discovered in Brecon Beacons

March 6, 2014 - 5:35pm

The Nigel Owens interview...A remarkable journey from the brink of suicide to becoming 'the best referee in the world' The Welsh referee talks about an eventful career that sees him take charge of his 50th Test this weekend when Ireland take on Italy in Dublin US singer-songwriter and the UK electro stars among the first wave of announcements for ... (more)

Why Some People Don't Like Music

March 6, 2014 - 4:35pm
Some people just don't enjoy music, even though they can experience pleasure in other ways.

Spotify snaps up The Echo Nest

March 6, 2014 - 2:36pm
Music streaming service Spotify announced Thursday it had acquired The Echo Nest, a company behind technology to suggest songs to listeners.

Bright Fireball Over New Mexico Rattles Houses - See and Hear It | Video

March 6, 2014 - 2:00pm
On March 6th, 2014, a meteor slammed into the Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the night skies of north central New Mexico. Thomas Ashcraft captured the sights with a his fireball camera and the sounds with a forward-scatter meteor radar.

'Seeing' bodies with sound (no sight required)

March 6, 2014 - 12:04pm
People born unable to see are readily capable of learning to perceive the shape of the human body through soundscapes that translate images into sound, according to researchers. With a little training, soundscapes representing the outlines and silhouettes of bodies cause the brain's visual cortex -- and specifically an area dedicated in normally sighted people to processing body shapes -- to light up with activity.

Some people really just don't like music

March 6, 2014 - 12:04pm
It is often said that music is a universal language. However, a new report finds that music doesn't speak to everyone. There are people who are perfectly able to experience pleasure in other ways who simply don't get music in the way the rest of us do.

Robotic prosthesis turns drummer into a three-armed cyborg

March 6, 2014 - 8:51am
Scientists have created a robotic drumming prosthesis with motors that power two drumsticks. The first stick is controlled both physically by the musicians’ arms and electronically using electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors. The other stick “listens” to the music being played and improvises.

Learning how to listen with neurofeedback

March 6, 2014 - 8:36am
When listening to music or learning a new language, auditory perceptual learning occurs: a process in which your recognition of specific sounds improves, making you more efficient in processing and interpreting them. A neuroscientist now shows that auditory perceptual learning can be facilitated using neurofeedback, helping to focus on the sound differences that really matter.

Elephant age estimated from voice

March 6, 2014 - 7:30am
A paper published in Bioacoustics explains how researchers have been able to estimate the age of an elephant based on its vocal sounds. Results showed that they could distinguish infants, calves, juveniles, and adults with 70% accuracy and youngsters (infants/calves) from adults with 95% accuracy. The call feature that was most useful for doing this was overall frequency—not surprisingly, since vocal frequency usually decreases as an animal grows larger.

SpaceX Poised to Launch Space Missions for US Air Force, Elon Musk Says

March 6, 2014 - 6:45am
The private spaceflight company will be ready to compete for Air Force contracts using its new Falcon rocket soon, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX said today (March 5) during a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing.

Robotic prosthesis turns drummer into a three-armed cyborg (w/ Video)

March 6, 2014 - 6:30am
Professor Gil Weinberg has already built a band of robotic musicians in his Georgia Tech lab. Now he's created a robot that can be attached to amputees, allowing its technology to be embedded into humans. The robotic drumming prosthesis has motors that power two drumsticks. The first stick is controlled both physically by the musicians' arms and electronically using electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors. The other stick "listens" to the music being played and improvises.  

A wireless Cone learns music preferences

March 6, 2014 - 4:00am
(Phys.org) —The San Francisco-based hardware startup Aether Things has started offering a reservations list for its debut product, a music player that will apply machine learning to figure out what you want to hear. The speaker works with Apple iOS and Mac products. Aether said you need a device running iOS 7+ or Mac OSX 10.9+ Mavericks. The machine, called Cone, will learn musical choices as it goes. The Cone will sell for $399 and is targeted to make its appearance in Spring/Summer of this year, according to Aether Things' news release on Tuesday. Aether, whose co-founder is Danish entrepreneur (Skype, Rdio, Joost) Janus Friis, prides itself as a company that makes "thinking things." According to the Aether website, "Play music at the touch of a button. Change genres and moods with the turn of the dial. Or talk to Cone and tell it what song, genre or artist you want to hear."